A couple of Phoenicians living temporarily in Roma

Archive for the tag “Rome”

Not so pretty, Roma

I know that most BIG cities in the world have their not so pretty sides. (I hear Singapore is the exception.) Areas where it’s not safe to walk at night, low income areas, graffiti, trash. The visions of a beautiful Rome, especially for the romantic traveler, are held so closely and so dear, that we tend not to see, or don’t want to see, that which doesn’t conform to our ideal. So just for a tiny dose of reality today, I present to you a few snapshots of another Roma that I see daily.

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My Jewish New Year – An Audience with the Pope

IMG_5172I’m not sure exactly what it is. Certainly living in Rome and being so close to Vatican City has something BIG to do with it. There must also be something about the time of year.

It’s once again the Jewish High Holy Days, the time between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Last year at this time, I found myself visiting some of the major basilicas in Rome, including St. Peter’s and writing about it.  So how did I celebrate the Jewish Holidays this year? Why by attending an Audience with the Pope!

Pope Francis – I prefer the Italian Papa Francesco or Il Papa – has proven so far to be fascinating, and I have been fascinated by him. I’ve got to admit, I’ve never been that interested in the goings-on of the Catholic Church. But being in Rome when he was elected has made him and the Church more interesting to me.

Papa Francesco is the 266th Pope. He is the first South American to be elected Pope of the Catholic Church (his parents were Italian, though). He is also the first Jesuit to ever be elected. He has already in the short time since his election in March of this year shaken up the Church and the traditions which surround the Pope.

He refuses to live in the papal apartments, instead residing in a guest house within the Vatican. He won’t wear the traditional ornate vestments worn by Popes in the past, preferring simpler vestments void of ornamentation. He came “out” so to speak and said that a homosexual orientation was not a sin. This week, the New York Times ran an article about him which you can read here, talking about how he’s been calling parishioners who have written to him, something no Pope has ever done in the past.

A friend of mine who works for Radio Vaticana said that it’s much more challenging to work with him than the previous Pope. He speaks more off the cuff and often doesn’t often use a script, which makes reporting on what he says more difficult. Like she has to pay attention now, which wasn’t always necessary with Pope Benedict, who kept to the script which was made available to reporters prior to him speaking publicly.

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I think you just gotta love him. For trying to shake up a very old tradition. For his humility and warmth. So I wanted to see him. On some Wednesday mornings, he holds a Papal Audience. When the weather is nice, it’s held outside in St. Peter’s Square. There are seats available and tickets are free, but you must get them beforehand and then cue up early to get a seat. Cue up the Italian way, in what resembles a mob scene, not the polite kind of queuing that the English do. And by early, like 3 hours before he arrives.

IMG_5175I bought tickets for Michael and I through a tour operator called Viator, which provided the services of a guide who would help us get good seats and then give us a history lesson while we waited. Our guide, Sen, a history professor in Rome who’s from New York, knew a good spot where we could see the TV screen and see Il Papa when he went by. The Square is divided into sections with walkways where Il Papa can ride by and greet and bless those in attendance.

It was exciting to see him up close. We were within feet of him when he passed by and Michael was able to get these great photos. He stopped often to kiss babies handed to him by his security service, or to offer a greeting or blessing. After going around the Square, he sat in an unadorned chair on a stage set up close to the entrance of St. Peter’s. Groups of pilgrims who had travelled from all over the world to see him were acknowledged. He presented a teaching which was translated into a number of languages about loving the Church as you would love your Mama. A children’s choir sang. It didn’t rain despite the cloudy skies and weather forecast. And I was blessed by the presence of the Pope. Not bad for a Jewish farm girl from Illinois!

Inside Cinecitta Studios

From a Fellini movie

Statue used in a Fellini movie

Rome is home to the famous movie studios at Cinecitta. Started by Mussolini in 1937 and later made famous by the Italian director Federico Fellini, the studio became the home of Italian cinema. I wrote about the studio last year for the blog ItalianNotebook, during a strike by studio employees who were trying to save a part of it from becoming a theme park. You can view that post here for a bit more background on the studios. Recently, my new Australian friend Margo asked me to accompany her on a studio tour, so off we went.

Each day there’s an English language tour at 11:30, but we arrived earlier so we could enjoy the self tour beforehand. The self tour includes several really cool exhibits that showcase the history of the studio and the process of filmmaking. There are displays highlighting the different departments that work together to make a movie, such as costumes, props and set design, etc. Margo’s daughter works in Australia in TV helping to procure props, so her knowledge of the process helped make the tour even more interesting. You get to walk onto a set of a submarine and to experience how real it feels to be inside, complete with working parts and sound.

The guided part of the tour took us onto the back lot. We toured Stage 5, which was home to Fellini and all of his movies were made there. It is so big that it was possible to recreate full streets, like Via Veneto,  inside. Currently, a film about Fellini and his relationship with a news writer is being made inside Stage 5. We got to walk through some of the sets being used for this movie. It was amazing to experience the level of detail that goes into making it all look so real. Unfortunately we weren’t allowed to take any pictures inside Stage 5.

We next toured one of the 3 permanent sets on the lot. This set is a re-creation of an ancient city and was used for the filming of the BBC/HBO series Rome and The Passion of the Christ. It looks real, but the buildings are actually constructed from fiberglass and what look to be heavy stones are made from styrofoam. The set is multifunctional, as it can be a setting for a movie taking place in ancient Rome or Greece or Egypt. There are also parts that are made to look like 15th century Italy. These sections were used to film the BBC production of the Borgias, which is available on Netflix and is very different from The Borgias available on Showtime.

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Next we walked through an “urban” set, which is constructed from tall scaffolding that can be fronted to look like a variety of cities, as you can see in some of the photos below. This set was used for The Gangs of New York. The guided tour ended at this point and before we left, we also viewed the final “permanent” set, viewable on the self tour, which is the recreation of a street in a small Italian village that is used for a popular Italian TV show. It was a delightful morning at the movies!

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